REDDING

The Town of Redding, CT was first settled in 1642, became a parish in 1729, and was officially incorporated in 1767.

The history of the early settlement of Redding differs radically from that of any of the neighboring towns. A new settlement was generally formed by a company of men, who purchased of the Indians a tract of land in the wilderness, had it secured to them by a charter from the General Assembly, and also surveyed and regularly laid out, and then removed to it with their wives and families.

Danbury, Newtown and Ridgefield were settled in this manner; but Redding at the time of its first settlement was a part of the town of Fairfield, and so continued for nearly forty years--a fact which makes it much more difficult to collect the fragments of its early history and to accurately define its original metes and bounds.

Fairfield formerly extended to the cross highway leading from the Center to Redding Ridge, and the entire southerly portion of Redding was given by that town on the erection of the former into a parish in 1729. This portion of Redding was probably surveyed as early as 1640, being included in the purchase made by the proprietors of Fairfield in 1639. Between Fairfield north bounds and the towns of Ridgefield, Danbury and Newtown, was an oblong tract of unoccupied land, whose bounds where about the same as those that now exist between Redding and the towns above named; this tract was variously called, in the early records, the "oblong," the "peculiar," and the "common lands."

It was claimed by a petty tribe of Indians, whose fortified village was on the high ridge a short distance southwest of the present residence of Mr. John Read. This tribe consisted of disaffected members of the Potatucks of Newtown and the Paugussetts of Milford, with a few stragglers from the Mohawks on the west.

Their chief was Chickens Warrups or Sam Mohawk, as he was sometimes called. President Stiles says in his "Itinerary" that he was a Mohawk sagamore, or under-chief, who fled from his tribe and settled at Greenfield Hill, but having killed an Indian there he was again obliged to flee, and then settled in Redding. All the Indian deeds to the early settlers were given by Chickens, and Naseco, who seems to have been a sort of sub-chief. The chief, Chickens, figures quite prominently in the early history of Redding; he seems to have been a strange mixture of Indian shrewdness, rascality, and cunning, and was in continual difficulty with the settlers concerning the deeds which he gave them. In 1720 he was suspected by the colonists of an attempt to bring the Mohawks and other western tribes down upon them, as is proved by the following curious extract from the records of a meeting of the governor and council held at New Haven, September 15th, 1720:

"It having been represented to this board that an Indian living near Danbury, called Chickens, has lately received two belts of wampumpeag from certain remote Indians--as it is said, to the west of Hudson River with a message expressing their desire to come and live in this colony, which said messenger is to be conducted by aforesaid Chickens to the Indians at Potatuck, and Wiantenuck, and Poquannuck, in order to obtain their consent for their coming and inhabiting among them; and that hereupon our frontier towns are under considerable apprehensions of danger from Indians, fearing that the belts have been sent on some bad design:

"It is resolved, That Captain John Sherman, of Woodbury, and Major John Burr, of Fairfield, taking with them Thomas Minor, of Woodbury or such other interpreter as they shall judge meet, do repair immediately to said Indians at Potatuck and Wiantenuck, and cause the said Chickens, to whom the belts and messengers were sent, to attend them, and to make the best inquiry they call into the truth of said story, and what may be the danger of said message. and as they shall see cause, take proper order that the said Indian with the belts, and the principal or chief of the Potatuck and Wiantenuck Indians, attend the General Court at its next session, to receive such orders as may be useful to direct them in their behavior in relation thereunto; and that Major Burr return home by way of Danbury, that the inhabitants there and in those western parts may be quieted as to their apprehensions of danger from the Indians; if upon inquiry they find there is no just ground for them."

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The earliest settlers located their houses on the three fertile ridges that now form the most striking as well as beautiful features of our landscape. The valleys were avoided, as being literally in the shadow of death from the miasms which they engendered; the hills, according to the early writers, were open, dry, and fertile, land, being comparatively healthful, were in almost all cases selected as sites for the infant settlements.

At that day they were covered, like the valleys, with continuous forests of oak, chestnut, hickory, and other native woods, from which every autumn the Indians removed the underbrush by burning so that they assumed the appearance of natural parks: Indian paths wound through the forest, often selected with so much engineering skill as to be followed later by the Highways of the settlers. There were "long-drawn aisles and fretted vaults" in these verdant temples, nooks of outlook, and open, sunny glades, which were covered with tufts of long coarse grass; groves of chestnut and hickory afforded shelter to whole colonies of squirrels--black, Grey, and red. Other game was abundant. Deer, wild turkeys, water fowl, quail, partridges, an occasional bear, and, in the autumn, immense hocks of wild pigeons darkened the air with their numbers. Panthers were seen rarely; wolves were' abundant, and the otter and beaver fished and built in the rivers. Both tradition and the written accounts agree in ascribing to the rivers an abundance of fish: Little River is especially mentioned as being the favorite home of the trout, and tradition asserts that scarcely four generations ago they were so abundant in that stream that the Indian boys would scoop them up in the shallows with their hands according to tradition.

The three first houses in the town were built nearly at the same time. One was in Boston district, where Mr. Noah Lee's house now stands, the second in the centre, on the site of Captain Davis's present residence, and the third in Lonetown, built by Mr. John Read, and which occupied the site of Mr. Aaron Treadwell's present residence.

It is related of the lady of the house in, the Boston district, that, becoming frightened one day at the conduct of a party of Indians who entered her house bearing an animal unmentionable to ears polite, which they ordered her to cook, she seized her babe, and fled with it two miles through the forest path to her nearest neighbor at the Centre, arriving there safely, though breathless and exhausted. It is fair to assume, however, that erelong neighbors were nearer.

Settlers began to flock in from Stratford, Fairfield, and Norwalk; several families moved here from Ridgefield and Danbury, and the settlement began to assume quite the appearance of a populous community. It is not, however, until 1723 that we get any authentic record of the names of the inhabitants or of their entire number. In that year a petition was presented to the General Court praying that the settlement might be constituted a parish; and which bears the signatures of twenty-five of the planters or settlers of Redding.

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The land that became Easton, Weston, and the southern half of Redding was formally purchased from the local Indians on January 19,1671 for "36 pounds sterling of cloth valued at 10 shillings a yard" (i.e. 72 yards of cloth.) Fairfield had already secured possession of the coastal lands from Black Rock harbor to the Saugatuck River in what is today Westport, and extending six miles inland. The Northern Purchase of 1671 , then, gave the town possession of another six miles further inland so that the town now extended from the coast northwesterly to an east-west line that coincides with modern Cross Highway in Redding.

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